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NetsDaily Off-Season Report #29

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They're playing with our emotions now, the gods of the NBA, a/k/a the players and owners.  After two days of heightened optimism, we were let down...again...on Friday.  Now, all we know is that the season will be a month shorter, but with no way of knowing how many games will eventually be played, when, where and with whom.

But we soldier on, hoping against hope, but fearing that the number of Off-Season Reports could stretch into the triple digits if these guys don't come to their senses. 

This week, we think about what Jamal Crawford would bring to the Nets; overhear a rumor about an assistant coach; find Damion James in a Houston gym working out with some high-powered young players; note how it wasn't only fans who were ready for the season to begin on Friday...so was the front office; track the latest tacky turn in the Kris and Kim melodrama; praise Brook Lopez for his role in the NBA's anti-bullying campaign; take a long look at how Mikhail Prokhorov is going to keep his hand in politics; and change our mind on D-Will to Europe.

Every Sunday, we update the Nets off-season with bits and pieces of information, gossip, etc. to help take the edge off missing the playoffs, and of course, enduring  the lockout. We rely on the Nets’ beat reporters and others who slip interesting stuff into larger stories, blogs, tweets...as well as our own reporting and analysis.

Jamal Crawford?

Do the Nets need another scorer? Yup. A wing who can shoot the big shot?  Yup.  A reliable sixth man...and one with the hardware to prove it? Yup. Jamal Crawford's fun tweets with Deron Williams this week about playing together  struck a chord. Frank Isola also hinted about Crawford's possible interest in the Nets a few weeks back.

Of course, the team already has two other wings who like Crawford are more shooting guards than small forwards: Anthony Morrow and MarShon Brooks. Would signing Crawford mean that the Nets plan to move Morrow and/or Brooks for someone else who plays a position of need? Or would the prospect of adding a second big man, like a Nene or Tyson Chandler to the mix this year (or Dwight Howard later in the season) make it easier to run two undersized wings at the same time? Just some food for thought.

We're Hearing a Rumor...

In addition to P.J. Carlesimo, we hear the Nets may be hiring a new assistant coach with championship credentials, someone with multiple rings.  The indications we're getting is that the this would be the coach's first job on the NBA sidelines.

Now the easy guess, and we need to emphasize it's just a guess, is Scottie Pippen.  Pippen has made a couple of trips to Russia for Mikhail Prokhorov (and just as importantly, is friendly with Sergei Kushchenko, the Nets new director). He has played in one of Prokhorov's charity games, flew deep into Siberia to give some star power to Prokhorov's Russian college basketball program, and took some friendly (rifle) shots with the Russian biathlon team in northern Maine last February, a team run by Prokhorov and Kushchenko. He's currently an "ambassador" in the Bulls organization.

Of course, a number of Avery Johnson's former teammates on the Spurs have multiple rings as well. 

Last season, the Nets had six assistants, including Rich Dalatri, strength and conditioning, and Doug Overton, player development. (Dalatri also has an assistant, Mike Wenzel.)  Two assistants are gone: John Loyer and Larry Krystkowiak and Johnson has said he plans to move Popeye Jones up a notch and give Overton more responsibilities.  The three assistants who sit in front with the head coach are likely to be Sam Mitchell, Popeye Jones and, if he's hired, Carlesimo. The new assistant would presumably sit in back with Tom Barrise, who has a management role; and Overton.

James Spotting

Damion James is probably the Nets player who we've heard the least of this off-season...the anti-Kris Humphries, so to speak. There was a report he had hosted a concert in his hometown of Nacogdouches, TX. He played a little in one of his buddy Kevin Durant's benefit games. Now, we get a little more information out of an AP story on Seton Hall player Herb Pope's comeback. James, it's reported, has been working out in Houston.

During his seven weeks in Houston, Pope worked out with Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the second pick overall in the NBA draft, Damion James of the New Jersey Nets, Jonny Flynn of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Tristan Thompson, the former Texas star who was the fourth overall in the draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Not bad company...a group of young and athletic players. No idea how often he worked out, but from the sounds of the story, it's been regularly.  The Nets have high hopes for James who they traded a couple of picks for at the 2010 draft. His season was cut short by a broken foot.

Dunk Champion Returns to Springfield

L.D. Williams, who won the D-League Showcase Slam Dunk championship last year, will return to Springfield, the Armor announced this week.  Williams, a 6'4" Wake Forest product, averaged 10.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Four of last year's Armor players have announced their intention to return to the Nets' minor league team this season.  Scottie Reynolds has yet to announce his intentions.  He has until Monday, as do all returning D-Leaguers.

Layoffs?

We've not heard of any Nets layoffs this off-season.  One big reason why things are stable on the employment front is that the Nets are also preparing for the move to Brooklyn and in fact more than a handful have already moved into Forest City Ratner's executive offices at MetroTech, Ratner's billion dollar office complex.

Even without Brooklyn, the Nets have wanted to keep people at the ready, should the lockout end quickly, as was hope on Friday.  Deadspin, the irreverent sports site, in fact reported that the Nets ticket staff was told to get ready for the lockout's possible end...

The New Jersey Nets ticket sales office, idle for most of the fall, is holding a series of hastily called meetings today under the theme "Be Ready." One staffer tells us that a department-wide email has been circulated, instructing employees that "it's time to get back to work."

That's encouraging and let's hope the next time isn't another false alarm.

Lopez as Leader

Brook Lopez along with Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Jared Dudley and Dwight Howard were among the players the NBA used as leaders in its anti-bullying campaign, Think Before You Speak, writes Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN. The group all participated in the program, with print and television ads as well as tweeting.

The campaign, in conjunction with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is designed to address the use of anti-gay language among teens. Lopez and Nash, on line early in the campaign, agreed to participate in print ads, Hill and Dudley in the television commercials and Howard in a series of tweets.  

Along with features about  Warrior president Rick Welts' decision to come out as a gay man, the ads were part of a coordinated effort by the NBA to address the issue, something else now on hold as a result of the lockout.

Kris and Kim...Kaput?

So apparently, the rumors are true. Last week we reported that TMZ had set everyone straight on the reports of Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian's marriage, that it was strong! As we noted, tongue firmly planted in cheek, that if you you can't believe Harvey Levin's TMZ, who can you believe?

Well, this week, we are in the odd position of using TMZ to show just how wrong they were only last week. We know you're shocked. Levin is indeed the Walter Cronkhite of his times.

TMZ first posted this video of the two apparently having a tiff in her car.

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BUT two days later, they got Kaela Humphries, Kris' sister, to deny it all.

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Still, Kim admits to People there are issues.

It's not ideal because you're newlyweds and you want privacy," she recently told PEOPLE, explaining the challenges of living with her new husband and sister Kourtney, her boyfriend Scott Disick and their son Mason

Kim's mom (and Kris' manager) did seem to hint to People that the relationship could be bi-coastal soon. Hope he's making a lot of money from the Kardashians. He deserves it.

Prokhorov Plans (Including Keira Knightley!)

Don't expect Mikhail Prokhorov to go gently into that good night, politically speaking.  While he has said he won't be rejoining the electoral fray anytime soon ("until conditions are ripe for change"), he has slowly begun to lay out plans for larger cultural initiatives...some with political overtones.

He's donated nearly $300,000 to sponsor a national tour by one of Russia's leading poets and satirists, one who regularly skewers the Kremlin, employing an actor to read his poems in theaters around Russia. 

During performances, Mikhail Efremov, reads poetry on current issues written by the satirist Dmitri Bykov. This "Citizen Poet" program can be heard on "Moscow Echo", an independent radio station and seen on F5, an online channel of Prokhorov's  In one of the issues Efremov read a poem about Mikhail Prokhorov, entitled " Uncle Stepan - a billionaire." Prokhorov reportedly liked it.

In addition to "Citizen Poet," Prokhorov, will cover the costs of the creation of drama schools in the regions. British actress Keira Knightley will have a role in the project. which is costing him a million dollars. At the same time, he is reportedly interested in buying the TV Channel, Rain, and a popular website. Prokhorov already owns RBC, a popular business website and television channel, which in turn owns a humor and satire site. Plenty of room to manuever.

A lot of his initiatives will be centered on his Made-in-Russia website, a patriotic website.  Expect more to be announced soon.

However, Prokhorov has already felt the sting of the Kremlin on one business deal.  His plans to list Polyus Gold, his biggest cash cow, on the London Stock Exchange was delayed, possibly on procedural grounds, possibly as warning to Prokhorov to watch what he's doing politically.  The postponement was ordered by a committee chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Final Note

Sometime in the future, there will be a final final note in this series, but for now, let's just talk about Deron Williams.  When he decided to go off to Turkey, we thought it was a bad idea and said so.  The risks were too great, we felt.  Now, we're not so sure. Besiktas has won six straight and he looked terrific the last couple of games (athough we think we've seem him protect that wrist). To the question, what's better, to play in a regularly scheduled series of games overseas or in a bunch of catch-and-catch-can benefit games here and there, we answer: playing overseas. He has a physical and mental regimen. He plays competitively, not against buddies. He plays defense. He gets feedback on a daily basis. Yes, he could get hurt, but so could Chris Paul, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or any other star playing in state college gyms.

We've always thought D-Will is different from most NBA superstars.  He is personally stable but also willing to take risks. He is loyal but also unsentimental. He may seem aloof but he's fully engaged. He has a wife and four kids. He met his wife in elementary school, his best friend in nursery school. He has no entourage or posse.

Moreover we agree with Brandon Jennings who this week ranked the best PG's in the league this way: "Deron Williams first. Derrick Rose, two. Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, and Steve Nash." 

So, in closing, we say: Go Besiktas Black Eagles!